Uber appoints banking executive as first UK chairman

Uber appointed Laurel Powers-Freeling, as its first UK chairman just as it battles to retain its operating license in London, its most important European market.

Uber is battling to keep its 40,000 London drivers on the road after it has been stripped off from its license. The Silicon Valley firm can continue to take passengers until an appeals process is exhausted, which could take years. The first hearing in the case is due on Dec. 11, 2017. Uber’s British management has been previously criticized by London Mayor Sadiq Khan for employing an “an army of PR experts and an army of lawyers” and not engaging well enough with authorities.

Powers-Freeling, has previously been Marks & Spencer’s banking arm M&S Money chief executive and a senior adviser at the Bank of England. He will take on the newly created role from Nov. 1, 2017.

“Uber is transforming how people get around and as a business it is also undergoing an important period of change,” Powers-Freeling said in her statement. Adding, “I look forward to working with the UK business to help them manage and implement that change.”

Uber, that is valued at around $70 billion with backers like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock, hopes the newly created UK independent non-executive role will help provide knowledge and experience to its British team.

Uber’s UK interim General Manager, Tom Elvidge, said according to Thomson Reuters that “With this new position Laurel will help us with the next phase of changes we want to make to our UK business.”

Elvidge has led the day-to-day running of Uber’s British operations since predecessor Jo Bertram said she was quitting the role earlier this month, according to emails seen by Reuters. In the meantime, Uber is still recruiting for a permanent replacement.